This spring the Williams Baseball team is excited about the prospect of taking its game to another level: NCAA tournament play. Though the team would have probably been selected for a spot in the tourney last year, the team was kept from playing due to a conflict with final exams. “This year we have something extra to play for because we are now eligible for the tournament,” said tri-captain Keith Surkont ’99. “That would be a really nice way to end a season.” But before the Ephmen make plans for post-season play, they must battle through a brutal schedule of top Division III foes, including RPI, Trinity and Wesleyan, all ranked in the top 20 nationally, not to mention rival Amherst.
Though the squad suffered five losses in spring play in Florida, it has shown moments of brilliance in earning its 15-5 record. Victories over Dartmouth, a Division I opponent, and RPI, ranked seventh in the nation in Division III, demonstrated the Ephs’ ability to win significant games.
This weekend, the Tufts Jumbos came into the Purple Valley for a doubleheader with Williams. The Ephs squeezed out two more wins by scores of 3-1 and 5-4. Surkont picked up the win in the opener, while tri-captain Jeff Russell ’99 and Jim Frew ’99 got the win and save, respectively, in the later game.
The Jumbos scored on Surkont in the first inning, on a bases-loaded walk, but could only manage five hits in the game, as Surkont shut them down the rest of the way for a complete game victory. Surkont, the staff’s ace, struck out ten on the afternoon.
Williams found itself down 1-0 heading to the home half of the fourth, when David Carillo ’00 advanced to first on an error and proceeded to steal second. Mike Paolercio ’00 drove Carillo in with a single to knot the score at one.
In the top of the sixth, Tufts looked to go up again, but Surkont stranded a runner at third by whiffing consecutive batters. The Ephs came out in the bottom of the sixth and secured victory. Erik Fagan ’02 drew a bases-loaded walk to bring in a run, and Alex Evriviades ’01 followed up with a sacrifice fly to score Paolercio.
Surkont preserved the 3-1 lead in the seventh, getting Tufts’ Tim Ayers on strikes with the bases full.
The late game saw another tight contest, as Williams couldn’t get on the scoreboard until the fifth. Tufts amassed a 3-1 lead on Williams pitchers Mike Caffrey ’01, who went four and two thirds innings, and Russell, who earned the win, despite giving up two runs in the top of the fifth. The Ephmen hit the ball hard in the opening three frames, but the Tufts’ fielders made some great defensive plays to keep the Ephs scoreless.
In the fourth, Russell came home on a double by Tim Albrecht ’01 to give Williams an initial 1-0 lead. The margin didn’t last long, however, as the Jumbos broke out with a three run flurry in the fifth. Caffrey gave up a run on Jumbo Dan Callahan’s RBI hit, while Russell gave up a pair on Jumbo John Flack’s two-run double.
The Ephmen exploded for four runs in the top of the fifth behind the bats of Evriviades, Russell and John Whalen ’99. Ryan Gunther ’01 and Fagan came home on Evriviades’ triple. Russell then knocked in Evriviades, and Whalen scored Russell for the 5-3 advantage. Frew relieved Russell in the sixth and had no problems, working a perfect inning. In the seventh, Frew gave up one run, but got Jumbo Pat Fernan to pop out to earn the save.
On the pair of wins, Surkont noted “the pitching was up and down. We did a good job not allowing hits or runs but we put too many guys on base with walks. The defense was really solid and the hitting was there every time we needed it.”
Earlier in the week, the Ephmen knocked off RPI in the team’s first game back from a spring break trip to Florida. Frew picked up the win as the team used three-run blasts by Russell and tri-captain Matt Sigrist ’99 to blow out the nation’s seventh ranked team, 11-4.
The following day Williams destroyed Keene State 19-4 behind homers by Sigrist and Evriviades and three hits by both Russell and Albrecht. Joe Steinberg ’01 picked up the win, hurling five strong innings. Steinberg allowed three runs on five hits and struck out eight.
While the recent wins should give the team confidence heading into the rest of the season, Surkont sees that “we have a much tougher schedule this year. There are basically no games that we can relax in, so we need to keep pitching strong and hopefully some of our younger pitchers can step it up to give the older pitchers a break. Caffrey and Steinberg are the ones we need to pitch well as starters to continue our winning streak.”
Williams will take its next step towards the playoffs today when the Ephmen host MCLA at 3:30.